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New AK4490EQ DAC coming


Gieseler Audio

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New AK4490EQ DAC.

I have built up a couple of versions of the Klein DAC using the AK4399EQ & the response to these has been good. As a result of this I have decided that both the Standard & Ltd will be permanently available in the AKM version as well as the PCM1794A version. AKM’s brand new premium model is now the VERITA AK4490EQ so I have decided to use this one as it is the latest version. http://www.akm.com/akm/en/product/detail/0054/  One of the exciting things about this new device is that the internal digital filter has five different setting. The new boards for this chip have been designed & ordered & should arrive late this week. The different filter settings will be adjustable on my boards by changing PCB jumpers. Later in the year I will have a higher range model that will have switchable filters from the front panel but it wasn’t economicaly feasible to do this on the Klein. As soon as I have the first new one up & running I will get it out in the field for some feedback.

Regards

 Clay

Edited by Gieseler Audio
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I've found the switchable digital filters on my MDAC to be a very useful tweak indeed - I don't like its default filter at all, but the filters built into the SABRE DAC work very well in my system. Although the difference isn't huge, it's enough to make a system go from not quite right to just right, and it seems everyone has their own preference as ti which filter is best for their system/music/taste.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The AK4490EQ DAC is now up & running. The Initial brief listen was pretty good but I think I will let it burn in for a few days before I have a serious listen. The internal digital filter is a lot better than the AK4399. Feeding in a 20 K sign wave via the S/PDIF (from my digital signal generator) the output looks perfect on my scope. This is an excellent result considering I only have a very mild analogue output stage filter. It is the best I have seen from any DAC. (I have not measured a SABRE ESS9018 though) Today I might even have listen with no output analogue filter but will measure first to check if there is any High frequency garbage. The digital filter settings are subtle but on a decent system you can certainly hear the effect. The bonus from the excellent internal filter is that there is no need to upscale music files as there is no sonic benefit like you get with other DAC's. Very handy as in a lot of setups there is no upscale option. I am pretty happy getting this brand new chips into one of my DAC's so quick as there are not many others available yet. Anyway enough of my ramblings, the bottom line is "how does it sound" so once it has had a decent burn in I will give you another report

Edited by Gieseler Audio
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Hi George,

I actually upgraded the design of this one a bit so it uses the big 250 ma audio output buffers which I use in the limited. It now has 50+ burn in hours so I will do some listening comparisons this morning. The RCA sockets I was waiting for should arrive in the next couple of days so I will get another AKM built up & over to Southport Hi-Fi for Doggie to check out. He has been hanging out for the new AKM version.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have had a couple of AKM4490 Klein DACs burning in in for a few weeks now & IMO this is the best sounding DAC I have built.

In my home setup it sounded better than my maxed out Konvertor Elite which is amazing as the Konvertor is running Duelunds, $200 four pole Jensen filter cap & a Telefunken premium tube. The Klein has that sort of sound you just want to keep turning up & up.

Anyway enough of my ramblings, the real test will be when I get some feedback from you guys. One is shipping out today to Naggots & I will try & get one to Marc at Steronet for a review next week. Bruce Marlin has orders one as well & I will try to get one to Bill Hobber too. Will keep you posted.

Cheers. Clay

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Look forward to the feedback from the guys, certainly sounds like you are on a winner with the implantation of this AKM chip :cool:

 

Not a prospect myself being solely records, but It's really interesting still :)

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Hi Dave, yes that is a good point. It does have five pre selectable 32 bit digital filters so maybe it is to do with that.

ortofun  -  it does have a very rich type of sound - dare I say "almost vinyl like" 

Edited by Gieseler Audio
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Anyway enough of my ramblings, the real test will be when I get some feedback from you guys. One is shipping out today to Naggots & I will try & get one to Marc at Steronet for a review next week. Bruce Marlin has orders one as well & I will try to get one to Bill Hobber too. Will keep you posted.

 

Clay has done it to me again.

 

Now the cricket and Easter is over I was going to contact Steve M who has my PCM Klein and an AKM version Clay loaned me so we can do a proper comparison against his Direct Stream.  Now he has the new DAC.

 

Before doing anything I will pop down to Clays Tuesday to see about getting a loan of a new one and including it in the comparison.

 

Good one Clay.  I think we need a DAC GTG soon and have everyone hear then compared to the Direct Stream etc.

 

Thanks

Bill 

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Hi Bill, all sounds good. I am building a run of four at the moment to fill orders so I will add another one to it. Might need to to get help with PCB assembly as at this rate I think I'm starting to OD on solder fumes! This new DAC chip is amazing, I'v been feeding it 384k files from Daphile & it sounds even sweeter.

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Well the new AKM and PCM Kleins arrived. I hooked up the AKM for a brief listen. I'm running a 2012 Mac Mini and Audirvana. Plug my Black Cat Silvertar USB cable in and bingo ....... Music. My set up is then direct from Dac to Earles Custom Topaz via Zu Event rca. Then fully upgraded Zu Druids Mk4/2013 (MKV) and mini methods with 2103 upgrade Zu Hypex amps. My former Dac for 2 yrs was a PDXL2 which had fantastic synergy.

My initial impression is Soundstage a little wider and higher, bass a smidge tighter, and voices still "pop" to front of soundstage during live recordings, more detail but it's subtle and an overall engaging presentation, Very very nice so far. Will leave it running overnight to fully warm up and settle before doing the same with the PCM Klein and comparo listen for a few hours.

I listen to guitar/piano blues, live recordings mostly, Buddy Guy, JL Hooker, lightning and junior etc plus house/chill out. The family listens to pop/youtube

Will add some more impressions later, fun times ahead :)

Edited by naggots
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I popped into Clays and picked it up.

 

Took it over to Rawl99's place for a tough test along with Steve U.  We tried it in Rawl's upstairs system which is ML1 Reference driven by a heavily upgraded Leak 20 that impressed many at a amp GTG a while ago, and open baffle bass drivers using a DEQX as crossover.

 

It normally uses a heavily upgraded Monarchy Audio PCM1704 DAC driven by a Squeezebox and we listened to that first.  Its much more expensive than Clays DAC.  The whole system is very real and organic - in fact up there with some of the best systems I have heard.  Its a tough test.

 

We tried it initially with SPDIF, but for some reason didn't work.  So we tried it with my NUC via USB.  Good detail but slightly steely and white for my taste.  It didn't have the texture and richness of the other DAC.  If it wasn't for the comparison I could easily live with it.  We then tried the SPDIF again - and it worked this time - probably some initial handshaking issue.  Interestingly it was better than the USB.  Still a bit white and steely - but now a lot closer.  I was enjoying this.  Then Rawl rigged it so we could switch between the USB and SPDIF.  The SPDIF was definitely better,  Interesting.

 

Next outing will be at a meeting of the Queensland Audio Club on Saturday and hopefully we can see how it fares in that system.

 

After that next week will be at Rawls again where the PCM Klein version will be included.

 

I liked this DAC but it still reminded me of the older AKM version - I think I might still prefer the PCM one - but a direct comparison needs to be done.

 

Thanks

Bill 

Edited by bhobba
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It is interesting that the Squeezebox via  the S/PDIF sounded better than the NUC via the Amanero USB, I usually find the reverse. The slight steeliness should go with a bit more burn in as this particular one I have lent Bill had been left on for a couple of days but I do find it seems to take about a week for them to really settle down.

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Hi Clay

 

Early days yet.  Much more listening and comparisons to be done.  That DAC is a very tough proposition.  Comparisons were done with a DCS and it was thought better - but Rawl told me its been upgraded further since then.

 

This is the first time I have heard SPIDIF beat good USB (I have heard my Off-Ramp via SPDIF best typical USB - but not well done stuff like Clays) - I have heard I2S do it - but not SPDIF which is a surprise.  Rawl thinks it a big part of it is a 'magical' SPDIF cable he got from Keith Eichmann.  Based on that I got one myself and can report more later.

 

Thanks

Bill 

Edited by bhobba
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I have been racking my brain as to where this "slightly steely" sound effect Bill heard is coming from & I think I have worked it out.

AKM are very definite about recommending a particular type of carbon film resistor in the filter network & on one of my new AK4490 builds I ended up using precision metal films. I think I was chasing precise channel matching at the time. Anyway I have a bad feeling that this is the one I gave to Bill. I have been in a mad panic lately filling orders & grabbed that one for Bill in a rush rather than a fresh build. What triggered this off is I had another listen to my AKM4490 DAC last night & there is not the slightest hit of harshness or brightness, if anything it errs on the sweet laid back side. Also I sent one to Marc at Stereonet yesterday for review. He has a PCM version as well so will probably comment on the different sound signatures in the review. Naggots also has both versions so I sure he will give us a comparison as well. The AKM sounds very different from the PCM so that why I offer a choice in the Klein DAC's. One or the other will usually work better for someone's particular setup.

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Well I've had a little more detailed listen to both kleins....... And they couldn't be more different

In a nut shell

The PCM sounds full, gutsy and focused and very similar to some other Dacs I've had In my system, mainly NOS with or without valves. Very nice indeed

The AKM has a far wider and taller soundstage, much more detail albeit with less upfront mid/vocal power but never lean sounding. I feel the extra soundstage dimensions could contribute to a lean perception. Treble detail is more pronounced without being harsh and is giving me extra detail over the PCM especially in the mids thus making them seem less rich/full but the power is still there. Voices are clean and natural with a centre mid speaker soundstage on the AKM where the PCM voices are powerful, rich and localised in front of the speakers. The AKM makes my speaker completely disappear, I'm not used to that!!

Bass quantity is fairly equal between the 2, the AKM maybe cleaner and PCM warmer at times but the depth and chest feel is on par without a clear winner. I am sensitive to bass output hence my 2 subs.

Some songs sounded better with either dac making it very difficult to pick a favourite tonight.

When swapping Dacs and starting Audirvana there are 2 USB handshake clicks which are way more audible with the AKM, just an observation I made after swapping Dacs 30 x tonight...... Clay may need some new sockets!!

These Dacs will be Very system dependant. My system with 10" high efficency drivers driven by 42w of Earles class A-ness has no problem with power vocals at any volume. less forceful speakers may prefer the PCM.

My room is a typical family room, L shaped with a the kitchen off to the side. 8m wide x 15m around the L. I did notice, over dinner, that off axis listening in the kitchen with the AKM provided a soundstage I'd not heard before with some of the soundstage height making it around the corner. Very nice.

During my 3 hr listening period tonight It became evident that every time I switched Dacs my ears sighed relief with the extra height in the soundstage the AKM provided. Maybe too much trying to listen rather than my usual just listening......or not enough beer!!

Tonight was one night, I may have a slight preference for the AKM. However which dac I can live with involves more than one night and whatever mood I'm in......... so tomorrow the outcome could be opposite. Thanks Clay for allowing me to enjoy these Dacs, it's an eye opener for sure :)

post-107793-0-52398500-1429270102_thumb.

Edited by naggots
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Hi George,

Thanks for the detailed comparison. I loved your PCM sonic description - sums it up perfectly. I think that's why Mike Lenehan prefers the PCM - full gutsy focused sound & as you say similar to NOS DAC's. His room is heavily damped & the PCM works well in that situation. A lot of people have tiles, glass ect & the AKM seems to work better with that. Yes those initial handshake clicks with the AKM are annoying especially in you are going straight into a power amp. It seems to be a Amanero AKM thing. I have been talking with Dominco at Amanero as to a possible fix with a firmware setting. Either way I will have a total fix with the next board revision so if you end up with the AKM I will swap it over for you. Hey I really appreciate all this feedback.

Cheers

Clay

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Hi Clay,

The USB clicks are minor and only occur during the initial startup with Audirvana not between each song, they sum up some of the difference between to 2 Dacs. With the PCM the clicks are dull and barely audible or muted, centered between the 2 speakers at tweeter height. AKM has the clicks 2ft higher and clearly audible sounding like clear computer clicks.

I guess if you have bright speakers this could be a concern. Zu with radian tweeters aren't famed for being bright, just subtle with detail so it didn't worry me. I think being able to hear them clearly is a plus in my case.

I was thinking over night about the mids on the AKM and I think there's the same mid levels or power but the AKM spreads it over a far wider area thus making them sound less in your face than the focused PCM if that makes sense. I'll have another listen tonight :)

Edited by naggots
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Hi Guys

 

Took it along to the Queensland Audio Club meeting but before I got a chance to put it in that system a group of us went over to Steve U's place to tune his Horn based system, and listen to some DAC's and cables after, along with Keith Eichmann.  Unfortunately the tuning took longer than expected and we didn't hear a lot of this DAC - but we did hear it.

 

First an issue - we couldn't get it working with SPDIF - I will be taking it down to Clay to look into.  But we did hear it via USB compared to a Direct Stream and an Audiolabs CD player.  No trace of steellines or whiteness - this was simply a synergy with Rawls system (my suspicion is because it's very revealing and it was tuned to his DAC).  It was up there with the Direct stream and I preferred it to the Audiolabs.

 

However it was just a quick listen, and Keith correctly pointed out it was far too quick a listen to reach any conclusions, and the components hadn't had any time to settle.

 

Once Clay sorts out the SPDIF issue Steve said he is happy to have another go - and hopefully we can get Keith to come as well - he has amazing ears and his cables are terrific.

 

Thanks

Bill 

Edited by bhobba
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Well I've had a little more detailed listen to both kleins....... And they couldn't be more different

The PCM sounds full, gutsy and focused and very similar to some other Dacs I've had In my system, mainly NOS with or without valves. Very nice indeed

The AKM has a far wider and taller soundstage, much more detail albeit with less upfront mid/vocal power but never lean sounding. I feel the extra soundstage dimensions could contribute to a lean perception. Treble detail is more pronounced without being harsh and is giving me extra detail over the PCM especially in the mids thus making them seem less rich/full but the power is still there. Voices are clean and natural with a centre mid speaker soundstage on the AKM where the PCM voices are powerful, rich and localised in front of the speakers. The AKM makes my speaker completely disappear, I'm not used to that!!

 

 

I've bolded the parts I can completely agree with you on, 100%.

Today I've spent quite a few hours with both DACs side by side, like yourself.

 

An immediate observation was more detail in the very upper frequencies. More decay (natural) on cymbals etc. I found female vocals have softened up (in comparison to the PCM), and overall the new AKM is warmer and more laid back. Now in my very bright room with way too many hard surfaces, this works perfectly well for me.

 

Bass seems more extended on the new DAC, and is very smooth and timed precisely.

 

The previous version at times was a little edgy in this room with my digital source. Not so, with the new.

 

No clicks at all within my application (Wandboard Quad, Squeeze on Arch OS, TP Linear Power Supply). USB, No filtering or up-sampling.

 

All that said, these are very initial observations as this has only about 15 hours run time on it. It may/will likely change somewhat in the coming weeks.

Ultimately though I am unbelievably impressed with the performance of the Klein DAC for the money!!!

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Had a very quick listen to the new upgraded AKM at my place last night as Bill says. We were a little rushed, but the bit that I did hear definitely whetted my appetite for another listen.

 

An alluring presentation, that drew me in and then filled the room with the detail that makes you want to listen more.

I think this DAC will tick just about all the boxes and I hope @@bhobba brings it back soon.

 

As stated above great value for money and I am really looking forward to giving this a proper trial beside the PSAudio DS dac. 

 

Nice one Clay.

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I think this DAC will tick just about all the boxes and I hope @@bhobba brings it back soon.

 

Don't worry as soon as Clay sorts out the SPDIF issue I will bring it back - and we can see if that 'magical' SPDIF cable sounds better than USB.  Hope to get Keith involved in that one.

 

Thanks

Bill 

Edited by bhobba
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